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When is a Sindon Not a Sindon?

August 5, 2015 74 comments

For anyone wanting more information, I highly recommend 
Diana Fulbright’s 20+ page  paper on the subject,
A Clean Cloth: What Greek Word Usage Tells Us about the Burial Wrappings of Jesus.


imageOn reading the following on Colin Berry’s blog, it occurred to me that a bit of clarification wouldn’t hurt any of us. Colin writes:

Why does this blogger [=Colin] now refer to the Turin “Shroud”? Why not just Turin Shroud? Answer: because the single sheet of linen in Turin was intended by a medieval entrepreneur, into the business of providing “relics”, to represent that used by Joseph of Arimathea to retrieve the body from the cross and transport it to the nearby tomb. That single sheet “sindon” must not be confused with the linen clothes (plural) aka winding cloths or bandages, Greek “othonion” that were used for final interment as described in the book of John. In other words, Joseph’s linen, imagined by our medieval entrepreneur to have captured a sweat/blood imprint, was replaced by those “bandages”, and indeed there is an illustration in the Humgarian Pray manuscript of that changeover in progress.

Is that what the Pray Manuscript shows?  Hmmm? And there is this:

Conclusion: referring to the imprinted linen as the Turin SHROUD was probably the biggest semantic goof in history, and it’s had enormous consequences as regards the speculation that has grown up around the mechanism that produced the double image.

clip_image001Kim Dreisbach, once upon a time over at shroud.com, clarified:

Students new to the study to the Shroud are sometimes confused by apparent inconsistencies in the description of Jesus’ burial cloth or cloths. In truth, the Bible – when read in Greek – uses a variety of terms to describe them.

The Synoptic Gospels use the word sindon in the singular to designate the Shroud (Matt. 27:59; Mk. 15:46 (twice); Lk. 23:53). Sindon appears only six times in all of the New Testament. In an anecdote unique to Mark, it is used twice in 14: 51-52 to describe the linen cloth left by an unnamed young man when he fled naked from the Garden of Gethsemane.

In Jn. 19:40, the Fourth Gospeller uses the word othonia [Gk.] (plural) to describe the linen cloths used in the Burial. Othonia, a word of uncertain meaning, but probably best translated as a generic plural for grave clothes. The same word is used by Luke or his scribe in Lk.24:12 what had previously been described as the sindon in Lk. 23:53. Note: vs. l2 (But Peter rose and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths (plural) by themselves; and he went home wondering what happened.) does not appear in the most ancient manuscripts, but is added by later ancient authorities.

Next we discover (keirias) [Gk.] translated by the RSV as bandages in Jn. 11:44’s description of the raising of Lazarus. In actuality, linen strips used to bind the wrists and ankles and probably also used on the outside at the neck, waist and ankles to secure the Shroud to the body.

Finally we come to the word sudarion [Gk.] which is found in the canonical texts solely in John (11:44. 20:7) and Luke (l9:20; Acts l9:12). It is translated by the RSV as "the napkin which had been on his head" (Jn. 20:7) and earlier in 11:44 as the cloth with which Lazarus’ face was wrapped. Scholars like the late Dr. John A.T Robinson ( "The Shroud of Turin and the Grave Cloths of the Gospels") and J.N. Sanders regard it as a chin band going around the face/head for the purpose of keeping the corpse’s jaws closed. Certainly this appears to be the intent of the artist who drew the manuscript illustration for the Hungarian Pray mss, Fol. 27v, Budapest of 1192-95 which clearly illustrates that the Shroud’s full length image(s) were known in the 12th century. (See Ian Wilson, 1986, The Mysterious Shroud, Garden City, NY; Doubleday & Company, p.115. See also Bercovits, I. 1969, Dublin: Irish University Press. Illuminated Manuscripts in Hungary, pl. III.) .

imageFor anyone wanting more information, I highly recommend  Diana Fulbright’s 20+ page paper on the subject, A Clean Cloth: What Greek Word Usage Tells Us about the Burial Wrappings of Jesus.

Diana  has researched  the Shroud since 1980.  She formerly taught the History of Christianity and related languages at the University of Iowa and Biblical Studies and Hebrew at the Benedictine Abbey in Richmond.


Jesus walked off with his shroud?

November 11, 2014 5 comments

“the risen Jesus took His sindon with Him out of the empty tomb”

imageIn an update yesterday, Stephen Jones zeroes in on an apparent false dilemma to argue the point:

The fallacy is that of the "false dilemma … in which only limited alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option"[66]. In this case the fallacy is the assumption that, since the Shroud [sindon] must have been there in the empty tomb when Peter and John entered it, and there are only two alternatives, the othonia and the soudarion, but it cannot have been the othonia because that means "linen strips," therefore the soudarion must have been the sindon, even though soudarion means "the small handkerchief" that in this case was "placed on the head of the corpse." Or the othonia must have included the sindon despite their primary meanings. But there is at least one other option, apart from the sindon being there but both Luke (Lk 24:12) and John (John 20:5-7) simply failed to mention it, and that is the risen Jesus took His sindon with Him out of the empty tomb, as Beecher concluded:

"But the fact that St. Luke does not now mention the Sindon, which had occupied his attention previously, but speaks of cloths [othonia] instead, would indicate that the Sindon was not in the tomb. And this is very significant in connection with what St. Jerome tells us, on the authority of the Gospel to the Hebrews (a work from which he often quotes), namely, that Our Lord kept His Sindon with Him when He arose from the dead"[67].

That the soudarion in Jn 20:5-7 was not the sindon in the empty tomb is evident from the following. New Testament Greek lexicons never give the meaning of soudarion as a large sheet but only small cloths, such as: "a handkerchief" (Lk 19:20, Acts 19:12); "a head covering for the dead" (Jn 11:44; 20:7)[68]; a Greek loan word borrowed from the Latin sudarium[69], which in turn is from the Latin sudor, "sweat," hence a "sweat-cloth," "a handkerchief, napkin"[70]; "a cloth for wiping the perspiration from the face," and "also used in swathing the head of a corpse"[71]. The two words sindon and soudarion are never given as synonyms in any Greek lexicon[72].

But, in fact, aren’t only a very limited number of alternatives being considered in this analysis?  Maybe we are taking Luke and John too literally. Maybe Luke and John got it wrong. Maybe . . .

A few paragraphs earlier in his posting, Stephen tells us:

Despite it being by far the largest of Jesus’ graveclothes, John does not mention a sindon at all, either in his account of the raising of Lazarus in (Jn 11:41-44), or in his accounts of Jesus’ burial (Jn 19:38-42) and the discovery of Jesus’ graveclothes in the empty tomb (Jn 20:3-10)[9]. This omission cannot be accidental, because John goes out of his way to provide details of the different cloths in both the raising of Lazarus and in their arrangement in Jesus’ empty tomb[10].

Maybe we are creating a new false dilemma when we assume that an absence of evidence is evidence of absence as in “lexicons never give the meaning,” which means . . .  Or “John does not mention . . .”

Nonetheless, it is an interesting idea. 

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